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Issue No. 129 22 March 2002  

Not So Happy Campers
It's a crude political truism: it's better to be inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in. At least for those on the inside.


Interview: Pulling the Pin
Victorian union leader Dean Mighell outlines the thinking behind his decision to quit the ALP and join the Greens.

International: At the Crossroads
From Germany, to Britain, to South Africa, Canada and the USA it seems union members are turning on their political partners – and talking about divorce.

Unions: A Case Of Lost Identity
Victorian Trades Hall secretary Leigh Hubbard warns that more unions could leave the ALP if the current policy review hits the wrong note.

History: Rocking the Foundations
There was not just one model of what a political wing of the labour movement should be, Don Rawson writes.

Industrial: Rocky Road
Thirteen hundred Rockhampton workers are putting cars and houses on the line in an effort to beat off bully-boy tactics from Kerry Packer-owned Consolidated Meat Group.

Economics: Cracking a Coldie
As Australian icons fall around him, Neale Towart charts the rise and fall of the Great Aussie Esky.

Poetry: The Right Was Wrong
A glimpse of history shows that waterfront workers deserve the high moral ground.

Satire: Heffernan’s Evidence Conclusive: Proves He's An Idiot
The evidence released by Senator Bill Heffernan to substantiate his allegations against Justice Kirby have proved conclusively that the senator is an idiot.

Review: Upstairs, Downstairs
Robert Altman's latest movie Gosford Park is hard yakka no matter what side of the class system you sit on.


 Giant Rat Fights Cole Commission

 Dodgy Bosses To Get Life

 Unions Back Rugby World Cup

 Queue Jumper Abbott In Cash Grab

 Refugees Face Bank Imbalance

 Guards Act to Plug Leaks

 Rabbit Fence Leads Reconciliation to Classroom

 Spy Bill Under Fire

 Council Takes Up Discrimination Challenge

 Power Workers To Decide Own Fate

 Thumbs Up for Super Deal

 G-G Warned Off State Schools

 Fee Pressure Builds on Beattie

 Nobel Committee 'Subordinates' Union Rights

 Columbians Level Death Charges

 Call To Blockade Burmese Junta

 Indonesian Threat To Unions

 Activist Notebook


The Soapbox
Dealing with Prejudice
Former Liberal senator Chris Puplick did not pull any punches launching a new guide for union reps dealing with discrimination issues.

The Locker Room
The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall
Phil Doyle tries to get sport off the front pages and back where it belongs ...

Greetings From Lao
In the first in a new series, Union Aid Abroad's Phillip Hazelton, reports from Lao, where he is establishing a vocational training centre.

Go West
The Building Industry Royal Commission caravan has rolled into Perth.

Week in Review
Top of the Pops
Johnny Howard and his Masters of Deception kept the beat during a week in which secrecy took over from blatant fibbing as the dark art or choice, leaving the national Hit Parade looking something like this …

 Letter to Howard #1
 Letter to Howard #2
 Letter to Howard #3
 Jump Before You're Pushed
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Cracking a Coldie

As Australian icons fall around him, Neale Towart charts the rise and fall of the Great Aussie Esky.


Aussie icons. No longer. Well known recent Aussie products which have swapped ownership and thus moved profits out of the country include Arnotts, Streets, Rosella, Edgell, Peters and Malleys, developers of the Esky.

Just because things are Australian owned isn't a good enough reason to buy them, as the ethics and labour standards of the companies may well leave a lot to be desired. Dick Smith has been a champion of Australian ownership in recent years, and backs the

Australian Companies Institute (which has a lot of good information on its website and in its guide available at most newsagents) but it didn't stop him attacking unions for defending the rights of workers this week.

However Australian ownership does give Australian law a bit more leverage, and allows more of the profits to return to the Australian public purse rather than disappear into tax havens elsewhere.

"An Australian Taxation Office review of 207 companies, which generated $30 billion in annual revenue, showed they paid less than $40 million in company tax."

In the Australian food industry the level of foreign ownership is pretty high

Abattoirs 80%

Baby Food 100%

Baked Beans 80%

Beef Processing 75%

Beer 50%

Biscuits 90%

Bread (Major) 50%

Breakfast cereals 65%

Cheese 50%

Frozen vegetables 85%

Meat Pies 40%

Pet Food 85%

Eskys and cold beer are two mythical Australian icons. For some reason Aussie blokes are supposed to be deeply attached to both. The history of the two things is intertwined certainly stick to Australian tradition with great Aussie ingenuity shown in their development and then we later see them sold off to overseas firms.

Keeping it Cold

Being a hot place thirst fired innovation.

Australia was the source of the first refrigeration system, that is the Coolgardie safe. It was a wet hessian box that used evaporative cooling to keep food cool.

Development of Refrigeration

In 1837 a journalist named James Harrison moved to Geelong Australia from Glasgow and set about designing his own refrigeration machine. His first machine did not work so he took it to England and with help got it working. Harrision returned to Australia in 1856 with the working machine, he was commissioned by a brewery to build a machine to cool beer and this was the first practical use of a refrigeration machine.

Heat processing was the first major innovation in food technology in the nineteenth century; the second was refrigeration and though others in other parts of the world had successfully lowered temperatures mechanically, the first mechanical ice making machine was put into operation in 1851 by Harrison at Rocky Point on the banks of the Barwon River at Geelong in Victoria.

Harrison was a Scottish-born journalist who established the Geelong Advertiser for J. P. Fawkner, of wool industry fame. His real love, however, was in solving the problems of mechanical refrigeration. He was successful in part with an ether compression machine; he secured patents in England, and a refrigerator based on his design was installed in a Bendigo brewery in 1860. Contemporaneously, he made ice commercially in Geelong and then in Melbourne but failed financially because he could not beat the vested interests who imported natural lake ice from North America (a great Australian habit as well. Lets get the cheap mport rather than support and develop a local great idea. (See C.J. Dennis' The Glugs of Gosh for a wonderful tale of our import habits and our economic dependence). A second venture, the Sydney Ice Company formed in 1860 with P. N. Russell, was bought out in 1862 by a group which wished only to suppress it in favour of a development of one of them, Eugene Dominique Nicolle, who used the principle of heat exchange by liquefaction of ammonia. Harrison's funds had been exhausted by his experimental work and during the 1860s, while much work was being done in Sydney, he returned to journalism.


The Nylex web site has a bit of a summary of this.

The first cooler sold under the trade mark Esky was manufactured by Malley in 1884. Malleys was a manufacturer of household metal products.

It was natural for a portable version of Malleys' ice box to adopt the Esky brand made famous on the company's popular domestic refrigerator. Made of metal and finished in green baked enamel and chrome, the first Esky cooler featured a removable three-tray food rack and boasted space for six, one pint bottles.

Dubbed the 'Esky Auto Ice Box' the product was widely promoted to car owners in motoring journals, claiming that the product was: "Just as essential in the boot as the jack"! The Esky cooler indeed proved a winner as vast numbers of Australian families, enjoying new-found mobility with the postwar boom in care ownership.

Within three years the Esky cooler had adopted a new shape and a smaller version was created for people who walked or took public transport. Two new colours were added the following year and, by the end of the 1950's, it was claimed that '500,000 happy picnickers' were now users of the Esky brand cooler.

The smiling Eskimo who became the familiar Esky brand character for the next 30 years made his first appearance near the end of 1959, uttering the words: "Cool, man, cool". Appearing with the slogan: 'You can take it with you', the advertising campaign that ushered the Esky brand name into the next decade featured a host of equally likable characters, from adventurers to astronauts, all shown enduring isolation, but all heroically cheerful because they had taken along their Esky coolers.

Nylex first manufactured Esky brand coolers in plastic, with some metal components, in 1984. Since then, the Esky cooler has shed virtually all of its metal parts. Insulation materials have also changed over the years from the original cork sheeting to the CFC-free, foamed in place rigid polyurethane used today.

Nylex has become firstly part of BTR Nylex, which became ACI Packaging Services, owned in turn by Owens-Illinois (Australia) Pty. Ltd., which in turn is owned by Owens-Brockway Glass Containers Inc., an American company.

Esky Under Threat

The Esky is still a great source of Aussie innovation with designs around for a mobile esky, using old fashioned go-carts with special space for an esky or two. The Mt Panorama races seem to have inspired the designers. There are also other places to buy fancy version already manufactured.

Over summer James O'Loghlin and (I think) Steve Cannane on Saturday night on ABC Regional Radio in NSW had a phone-in about eskies, and, after lamenting the arrival of the esky with wheels (manufactured by Nylex) which represented a softening up of Australians and our lie on the couch attitude, someone rang up to say the blame rested with his brother. This person's brother was excused from causing laziness because he had displayed innovation. He had decided to walk into Wilpeena Pound in the Flinders Ranges, but couldn't bear to leave the beer behind. So he rigged up a golf buggy (not a motorised one) for the task. This was acceptable Aussie innovation.

The esky's versatility is also shown in recent great escapes.

"SURVIVORS! Amazing escape as two cling to esky!...

They drifted in the shark and crocodile-infested waters for 12 hours before staggering on to a reef 20km away near Eagle Island later that day."

(Sunday Mail 9 April 2000)

Diver saved by Esky lid in 15-hour swim for life

By Penelope Debelle

Howard Rodd, a 44-year-old abalone fisherman from Port Lincoln, had a miraculous escape after his boat capsized, swimming for 15 hours through shark-infested waters off South Australia clutching an Esky lid.

His ordeal began on Monday at 11 am when his seven-metre abalone diving boat turned over in heavy seas west of Ceduna. He and a 47-year-old deckhand clung to the upturned hull for several hours, drifting within sight of nearby Saint Peter Island. Mr Rodd decided to try to swim to the land but his mate - fearful of encountering a shark in a particularly treacherous area of South Australia's waters which are a breeding ground for the great white - refused to leave. He remained clinging to the boat's hull, wearing two life vests.

Mr Rodd swam off in a wetsuit, flippers and with an Esky lid for extra flotation.

SMH 16-1-01

Jonathan King summed up the iconography.

The [Australian] community encourages drinking to the point of addiction... it goes without saying that most leisure pursuits are accompanied by compulsive drinking, few would think of going to the cricket, football or tennis without an Esky full of cold cans and fewer would go yachting or picnicking without a trusty supply. For many, leisure equals drinking.

(Waltzing Materalism, 1976)

TheAustralian Beers page also has a go at this.

"Mate, grab the esky for the footie. After, me oldies are having a barbie out woop-woop somewhere. Bit of a shocker, but we'll have a few coldies and a couple a snags and it'll be right.

Rightio mate, no worries."

They also track a recent development - the threat of the first disposable esky.

Esky Left out in the cold, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 January 1999

According to reports, Lion Nathan will soon be releasing a "Polar Pack" beer carton with the capacity to keep the beer within cold for hours longer than your standard carboard carton. Its secret? Extra thick cardboard and a reflective laminated polyester. Which, to be honest, would be a bloody ripper. Stuff the icon.

At a barbecue, picnic or any other outdoor event, you'll be able to enjoy a cold beer straight out of the carton and then simply dispose of the empty box. It certainly saves lugging the esky home.

Tony Jones, SA Brewing's head brewer, January 1999.

Tony Jones has since reported that this idea hasn't made it to the starting line

The motorised esky made it onto ABC radio this year, as this report from the Victorian Country Hour shows.

"If you're worn out from dragging that heavy esky along to parties this summer this might be an idea for you. A motorised esky. We're not just talking about a few wheels and a small engine, we're talking turning your esky into a tractor and literally driving it to your party destination. It's the brainchild of Quentin White from Dookie. He and his brothers got together and decided to make the most portable esky yet and the design was so good, it won him an award at the Mountain Cattlemans Get Together."

The word Esky is seen to be so Australian that it was given a definition during the Olympics on the SMH"s Olympic Web site

Esky - Australian for cooler.

The Macquarie Dictionary gives the word's derivation, and a couple of (that word again) innovative spinoffs.

Esky: (noun) a portable icebox. [Trademark; from esk(imo) + -y]

esky lid - noun Surfing (Derogatory) a bodyboard.

esky-lidder -

noun Surfing (Derogatory) a bodyboard rider.

The y (or ie as some use) on the end to me also shows the Australianness of it. A great habit is to add a "y" or an "o"to the end of words in Australia, after first shortening them. So we have "reffos", Robbo, footy. Cutting Eskimo back to esk then adding the y is a terrific example, and one that the current overseas owners would never be able to match.

In Kmart the other day I saw what to my eyes was an esky, made in Australia, but labeled a cooler.

Sigh, time for a coldy.

(You can also find lots and lots of webpages about Esky web software, mostly in various Eastern European languages).


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